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The Homes of Zee

Character Check

Culture and personality come together in one homey Talamban abode.

Culture and personality come together in one homey Talamban abode.

With its tropical weather and laidback atmosphere, Cebu has become a melting pot of cultures and people—people from all over the world finding a place on the island to call their own. The result is a mismatch of cultures and personalities that, having come together, have created a character that has become, in a way, what Cebu is all about today.

Such is the character found in one family home in a village in Talamban, where various influences abound in a place that is somehow still rooted in Cebuano sensibilities. The husband and wife—French and Taiwanese, respectively—have fashioned a residence that embodies their characters, their travels around the world, and their current home country of choice.

“We moved to Cebu exactly 10 years ago,” says the husband. “We were seduced by the idea of a tropical city, where we could enjoy a pleasant lifestyle full of sunshine and still work and create fashion accessories for our export business.” Before 2002, the couple had been in the same business in Taiwan, where the weather can get too cool for comfort. Now, truly, the couple takes full advantage of Cebu’s weather, with a home that opens up seamlessly into the outdoors.

Sitting at the end of a sloping driveway, their one-storey house is large and airy, with rooms that seem to flow into each other. The entrance’s double doors open up into a large living room which, in turn, has French doors leading into the patio. Large entryways lead into the other parts of the house. “We tore down some walls,” says the wife as she motions toward the doorway to the bedrooms. The result is larger spaces and a breezier feel, perfect for the hot weather that prevails on the island.

In fact, the pool right outside the living room is another respite from Cebu’s sometimes stifling hot weather. The cool blue pops against the grass, and is punctuated by outdoor furniture and cozy lounge chairs from Coast Pacific that simply match the tropical atmosphere. “We definitely think that contact with nature is important [so] we arranged part of our house to be outdoors and virtually blending with the garden,” the couple agrees. The lush greenery includes orchids, palms, and other tropical plants that attract birds, dragonflies, and butterflies—creating a veritable “private little resort within the city.”

“We like our home to remain sober while avoiding any overstatement or mainstream fashion,” the husband says. “We like to maintain a certain coziness and peacefulness in it. The idea is for all of us to feel at ease the moment you pass [through] the door.” Venturing further indoors, one would see that the couple was able to do just that.

More than its structure, what makes the house so remarkable is that it belongs to people who appreciate art and culture—a fact that is realized even from the entrance: a figurine of the Buddha playfully displaying strands of colorful beads on one hand, is set on an antique wooden table, while the coffee table is decorated with flower arrangements done by the wife herself.

The living room is almost bursting with pieces that come with their own stories, like the lamps and statuettes that were hand-carried through various flights. Hanging over a console table is an old Chinese painting, which features an elderly man with extremely long fingernails. “It is a sign of wealth,” the wife explains. “Long fingernails mean that he doesn’t have to work.”

More of such paintings of Chinese ancestors may be found in the small study cum library, their subtle symbolisms embodying instant lessons on Chinese culture. Paper soles hint that the person was carried around everywhere, the animal painted on the robe signifies the person’s profession—these, for example, are insights that the residents don’t mind sharing with their guests.

Additions to the couple’s art collection are pieces from their daughter, who often takes to painting when in a melancholic mood. Featuring oddball characters in bold colors, the art gives a breath of modernity into the house. Its surreal shapes are the perfect foil to the classic shapes and neutral colors of the large antique furniture pieces, which come from around Asia but are sourced from a local supplier.

The study has doors that open up into the backyard, but it is filled with items that keep one’s attention inside the room. The paintings are there, as well as a traditional calligraphy set positioned on the wooden desk used regularly by the wife.

Interesting, too, is the dining room, which is anchored by a massive dining table made of two bancas (local outrigger boats) topped with heavy wood. As impossible to miss is the large, beautifully carved wooden arch—an intricate antique from India bought in Cebu. It stands over the doorway leading to the bedrooms.

The bedrooms are simple and reflective of the personalities of those who sleep in them. The daughter’s room is done in white, with colors popping from the artworks and accessories inside, many actually done by her. A Native American headdress sits on one table, and a papier-mâché cat, atop a bookshelf. Personal photographs and mementos are tacked to a corkboard nearby.

To keep the breezy feel of the space, the owners decided to tear down the wall and its small windows, and provided their daughter’s bedroom, instead, with a sliding door that leads into a small lawn. Then, a little farther off, either through the lawn or through the carpet-strewn hallway, is the master bedroom, its low bed and minimal furnishings giving off a really laidback vibe.

The various articles in the house and how they have been put together embody those who had selected them, and that’s exactly how the owners want it. “We didn’t get a designer,” says the wife. “A house should reflect the people living in it.” And that they have managed to achieve, and are planning to do again in their next home, which is currently under construction. The wife explains that everything in the new house is based on what they want, from the design and the layout to all other details—perfect for making sure that the house has spaces that can cater exactly to what the family needs.

That certainly is the case for their current home, where every room has the cozy feeling of being lived in. While some houses may have already become stiff in trying so hard to be impressive and stylish, this one is comfortable in just being a place where its residents can return to and feel completely at home. In fact, this house isn’t trying to be anything; it just is.

  • by Shari Quimbo
  • photography Adrian Yu and Christine Cueto


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The Homes of Zee

LOCKDOWN FUN: Whose Crib is This?

Here’s one way residents of Cebu’s exclusive villages created their own fun during zoom parties — guessing each other’s home! Of course, you need a smart mastermind to curate the photos to make sure the homes of each of the amigas are not easy to guess.

So, here’s a short tour of homes that was paraded during this very fun game. Homes are located in Maria Luisa, Northtown Homes, Beverly Hills and a beach house too.  Oh, and one came all the way from Scotland.

We hope your zoom parties are just as fun!

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The Homes of Zee

Seashore Seclusion: A Beachside Abode in San Remigio

A cozy family getaway in San Remigio epitomizes the charm and simplicity of living by the sea.

by Shari Quimbo
photography Ezekiel Sullano


Admittedly, there are some challenges that come with living in Cebu; but having pockets of paradise being only a few hours’ away is an upside that’s hard to beat. One such paradise is San Remigio, a town that sits on the northwest side of the island, which means its serene shores are kissed daily by an amazing view of the sunset. Sure, you’ll run into some traffic while driving out of the city, but what awaits you makes the drive up north an easy challenge to live with.

A walkway leads into the house’s main living area, which enjoys an open floor plan for a relaxed and communal atmosphere.

When a chance to visit one family’s beachside getaway landed on our laps, we couldn’t pass it up. After a brief struggle with Mandaue City traffic, we were soon cruising through the towns of the north while the crystalline blue waters of the ocean peeked through every few kilometers.

It wasn’t long after when we found ourselves going up a pebbled driveway where a bamboo gate opened up to a footpath that led to the house. “We wanted to keep it simple,” the owner explains, sharing that he came up with the design while going through photos of houses online. With a thatched roof, rounded columns and a grooved concrete fence, the space is cozy and informal—a place that definitely exuded a laid-back beachside feel.

The living areas integrate into each other, with casual dining set-ups arranged around the open space, while oversized couches surround a solid wood coffee table. There’s a communal vibe that’s slightly deliberate. “We have a lot of friends and family that come in during the weekends, so we created a space that’s ready for that,” says the owner. “We didn’t want anything too formal. Some beach houses make you feel embarrassed to come in with your wet, sandy feet. We want a place where everyone would be comfortable moving around.”

Natural tones are complemented by richly colored fabrics

That said, the concrete floors, made for walking around barefoot, lead to the manicured grass where the infinity pool looks like its about to spill out into the beach below. The blues of the sea and sky complement the more natural tones of the house’s wooden furniture pieces and painted white walls. Pops of color come in with the throw pillows, hammock and matching bright orange lounge chairs that are around the pool.

As if keeping with the house’s casual vibe, the owner’s trio of dogs roams freely around the property, curiously coming up to us for attention. “They just showed up one day,” he laughs when I ask where he’d gotten the dogs, named Beer, Tequila and Scotch—perhaps giving proof of how fun weekends here can be. A bar sits by one of the dining tables and further cements this theory, as does the homemade lamp made from a bottle of Patron.

Off to the side of the house are the bedrooms, which are simple but spacious. “It’s so there’s space on the floor to bring in cushions for when we have a lot of people over.”

The house’s infinity pool seemingly spills out into the ocean, and is one of the best locations on the property to watch the sunset.

The beach house took just two months to construct about two years ago. “Weirdly enough, we built this house while I was still living in Malaysia,” shares the owner. “My sister manages a construction company, and I would just email them instructions and photos of what I wanted. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy.”

The bar is stocked with a wide array of liquors, and is proof of the residence’s festive spirit.

Of course, when typhoon Yolanda hit northern Cebu, the house saw considerable damage. A quick browse through his photo gallery showed the roof completely ripped off the structure. “I came back the weekend after Yolanda. It took me almost a whole day to get here because we had to clear the road as we went,” he recalled.

Repairs to the house took a backseat as the family helped residents around the area before they moved to reconstruct their own house. “It took a month or so to fix the roof and everything else that was broken,” he says.

When lit up with candles in the late afternoon, the walkway takes on a cozily intimate vibe;

Long benches flank the dining table to accommodate plenty of diners.

Now, the house is as inviting as ever. We spent the minutes leading up to sunset drinking beer by the pool. A few fishing boats float off the shore, with many locals walking through the beach. “I like the idea of having no fences and having people passing through,” the owner shares. “I like that it’s open. It makes the house feel more alive.”

Sunsets by the beach are priceless.

That, in a nutshell, describes the beach house. With its cheerful, casual corners, it surely feels lived in—as if remnants of the happy moments people have spent there still hang in the air and even add to its personality. It’s not hard to understand why the owners look forward to the two-hour drive up on the weekends—if we had a space like this, we’d be heading north more often too.


(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s April 2016 Travel Issue, “Beach, Please” on pages 98-101.)

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The Homes of Zee

Idyllic Isolation: The La Mer Veille

French architectural duo Humbert & Poyet create La Mer Veille in the Italian Riviera, a seaside cabin that has its fair share of charm.

by Shari Quimbo
photos courtesy of Alexandra Public Relations


With the azure sea on one side, the verdant mountains on the other and picturesque towns in between, the Italian Riviera is certainly a dream destination. More than its natural beauty, the region seems frozen in another time—a simpler one, when the days seemed long and the people keen to enjoy the moments.

It is here that La Mer Veille sits, a beachfront cabin that epitomizes the simple summer escape. Nestled between Bordighera and San Remo, its stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea are complemented by its predominantly white palette, down-to-earth décor and delicate materials.

The house is the creation of French architects Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet, the personalities behind the firm Humbert & Poyet. Since they decided to collaborate in 2007, the firm has worked on various projects around the world—the Wine Palace at the Monaco Yacht Club, the curated fashion store 55 Croisette in Cannes, and fashion designer Alexis Mabille’s first shop in Paris are just some of the projects the two have worked on together.

“We communicate constantly throughout a project,” Christophe explains. “Our symbiosis forms the foundations of our projects and ensures the space that we’ve imagined works.”

The result is elegant and timeless spaces that meticulously bring together various design elements—the choice of materials and lighting, for example, are carefully thought out to make the most of a space and to ensure the client’s needs and personality is reflected in the final design.

It’s understandable then why La Mer Veille sits at a perfect vantage point where it surroundings can be admired. The seaside cabin is simple and relatively small, but is put together to exude an unassuming luxury that dares not to compete with the views outside.

The living area, shared with the dining room and kitchen, is done in shades of white with earthy tone accents. The Carrara marble counters are complemented with brass fixtures, including a brass sink that was custom-made by Humbert & Poyet. The firm also specially constructed the sofa that sits opposite the wooden table, a find from a market in England. Straw-wrapped lighting, an old-fashioned fireplace and a brass backsplash for the stove just add to the overall rustic appeal.

The bedrooms also have that effortless charm, with various nautical details to remind its occupants they are by the sea—just in case they forget the views beyond the picture windows. The master bedroom features a mattress sitting on an elevated wooden platform, topped with an Ancient African throw purchased from an antique shop.

“We communicate constantly throughout a project,” Christophe explains. “Our symbiosis forms the foundations of our projects and ensures the space that we’ve imagined works.”

La Mer Veille is a space that celebrates its location, and its location is best enjoyed from the terrace. The creamy white palette is carried over to this outdoor space where distressed wooden floorboards and a cushioned seating area invite you to put up your feet and settle in. The mood is set even further with a hammock chair from Etsy hanging easily from the ceiling and some relaxing music from the piano.

Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet

Beyond its architectural details, it is the finishing touches that give this dreamy cabin its character—bunches of baby’s breath and other flowers tucked into pitchers and vases in various niches around the house, wooden stools with rounded seats, antique-inspired knickknacks like an old fan sitting on a shelf and a swinging love seat. These details make the house come to life in an interesting way; and with a view such as this, what a life it is.

(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s May 2016 Home Issue, “By the Sea” on pages 72-77.)

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